Just over five years ago I left Ubisoft in Montreal and set out in search of new challenges and to find my own fortune making awesomer games. I have been very fortunate over this time to live and work in both San Francisco and Seattle; two very different and unique game development hubs that have consistently produced many of the best games in the world. I met a lot of new people, and I worked at a range of different companies on a few different projects, each with their own unique cultures and approaches. I have done some interesting and challenging work and I have learned a lot.
But, as the five year mark approached, and I realized I had not shipped a game in seven years, I started to become anxious and depressed. I am not a patient person, by nature. I was on my third visa, and had still not managed to secure a greencard. It turns out that being an ex-pat is not as glamourous as Hemingway would have you believe - and I was definitely following his prescribed dosage of mojitos - so that was not the issue.
In the end, for me at least, five years is just too long to be rootless. As a result, I decided at the beginning of the summer to return to Canada. At first I was not sure where I would land - whether I would return to Montreal and the development community I came of age within, or whether I would continue my adventure elsewhere in Canada.
After a number of discussions, the opportunity I was most excited about was to return to Ubisoft - but this time in Toronto. I know most of the people who were involved in founding the studio personally, and almost all of them are still here. I've watched them grow from afar, and managed to keep up with their war stories at various industry events over the years (usually over mojitos). It wasn't hard for them to convince me to come and talk about what we could do together.
From the moment I set foot in the door here, it was like a reunion. I couldn't walk ten meters without seeing a familiar face, if not a close friend. But it was more than just familiar faces. It almost felt genetic. Interviewing with people I had never even met and getting drawn into discussions about process and design... it made me realize how much my own design and development thinking had been shaped by the culture here, and perhaps - just maybe - how even some tiny fragment of my own thinking had managed to work its way into Ubisoft's approach as well.
So it's weird to say it - given that I am living in a different city, and working in a different studio, with mostly different people who I have never worked with before, but... it's good to be back.
There's a short interview up on the Ubisoft Blog here.
More news soon.